“Everyone appears to be waiting for a shoe to drop to change the dynamic of the campaign…” – SITD 24 hours ago.
And since then? Imelda Marcos’ closet has spilled out all over the GOP primary. To recap 24 of the busiest hours of the 2012 primary thus far:
- Newt-onian Physics: In one day, the Real Clear Politics average of South Carolina polls has shifted from a 10% Romney lead to a rounding error 1.2%. We haven’t seen volatility like this since the stock market in the fall of 2008. And the polls have move quickly because the fundamental elements that the entire 2012 Republican race have thus far been based on seem to be shifting as well. Starting with…
- Children of the Corn: Rick Santorum won Iowa. By 34 votes. We think. Iowa’s GOP now admits we’ll never know who won the caucus since too many precinct results are missing. Iowa Democrats shouldn’t exactly express schadenfreude over the error, since a similar result happened to them in 1988. While the result (officially called a “tie” by the Iowa GOP) would seemingly boost Santorum, setting the stage for three different winner of the first three primary/caucus states, the practical influence of the outcome has been more to hurt Romney than help Rick Roll into SC. At once, the narrative of the race thus far has been changed. Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, Romney no longer can claim to have run the table, denting his greatest asset – the assumption of inevitability.
- Thrust and Perry: Today could have been Santorum’s best of the campaign- news outlets might have led with both his belated Iowa victory and his formal endorsement by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. Instead, the media is using the Iowa results mostly to discredit Romney and the Hawkeye Cauci while trumpeting Rick Perry’s 11th hour decision to drop out and back Gingrich. Perry’s blessing doesn’t carry much raw electoral weight – he was polling between 2-4% the last 48 hours of tracking polls – but helps tremendously towards Gingrich’s efforts to rally conservatives behind him as the “anti-Romney.” And perhaps most importantly for Newt, it robs the headlines from…
- The Ex-Files: Marianne Gingrich’s timing was almost perfect – if she wanted to destroy her former husband’s political comeback (and she still might). Taken from a 48-72 hour-old context, her blistering ABC interview might have been the nail in the coffin of the former Speaker’s attempt to win South Carolina and stall Romney’s momentum. Instead, her comments have disappeared down the news cycle memory hole as the narrative media outlets are going with is yet another amazing political Lazarus impression by Newt. Will Marianne’s comments come up at the debate tonight? Possibly. Will her comments resurface if Gingrich wins SC? Definitely. But for now, Team Newt looks to have a few more days to figure out how to response to his ex’s charges that he wanted an “open marriage.”
- Fringe Fest: Tonight’s debate is the cherry on this news sundae, prompting questions as to who will be the evening’s target. Will Gingrich find himself in the crosshairs again or will Romney continued to be hit hard since the week’s earlier debate marked the start of his polling bleed-out? What’s less debatable is that both Paul and Santorum will find themselves on the edge of the debate, likely literally as cameras prep for a two-shot for a forthcoming two-man race. Considering neither is going to win SC, whose victory hurts them more – Romney or Gingrich? The likely answer is actually Gingrich. If Newt pulls out a comeback in Carolina, the chattering class will begin to apply pressure on the rest of the field to clear the path for the desired mano-a-mano debates. Since Paul is more in the race to build a movement than a nomination, Santorum needs to stop Newt from winning South Carolina to maintain the mantle as the only “non-Romney” to have won a state. Meaning don’t be surprised if Santorum comes out guns-a-blazing against the former Speaker.